While they may not feel as ceremonious as your wedding invitation proper, make no mistake: the save the date card is both a key gesture in the world of wedding etiquette—and can be one of the most fun parts of the planning process.
From designing, to strategizing, to ultimately mailing (by post or by email? We’ll get to that.) your save the date cards, this guide will clarify the deceivingly simple exercise of issuing this first communique and kick off the journey towards your nuptials as gracefully as possible.
While there’s plenty of ways to have fun with save the date cards, there are three main wedding details you needs to get across:
It’s still early in the wedding planning game, so there’s no need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the day’s ins and outs—your main job is to send the signal to loved ones that you want to include them in the celebrations and pass on the basic details, so that they can be there with you.
Many couples may be wondering whether this nuptial tradition wedged between the engagement announcement and formal wedding invitation is even necessary.
The answer is: It is.
The essence of the save the date card is to share those three core details of your day and to get your wedding on your guests’ radar. Furthermore, save the date cards are also a means of:
Letting your guests know they will be invited to the wedding
Allowing guests enough time to request time off of work, arrange for childcare, plan long-distance traveling, budget accordingly, etc.
Helping you get a sense of your wedding guest list
The save the date card is chiefly a matter of courtesy. Think of it this way: Just as you and your partner are pouring time, resources, energy, and care into planning your wedding, your friends and family want to honor those efforts by planning ahead so that they can be there to honor that effort—and your union—with both of you.
If you’ve nailed down the place you’ll be marrying, the date of your wedding, and (we certainly hope) the person to whom you’re betrothed, there are two other pieces of information you may consider adding to your save the date card.
Most couples usually sign off their card with a note to guests indicating that they will receive an official wedding invitation later down the line. Traditionally, this is written as “formal invitation to follow.” However, if your personal style or wedding vibe is more casual, you have full license to play with the language. The point here is that no one confuses your save the date card for the wedding invitation itself.
Lastly, you may consider giving guests a first glimpse of your wedding website by including the URL on your save the date notice. Your wedding website is where guests can go to find:
Detailed information on your wedding venue
Accommodation and travel recommendations
Updates and changes to wedding plans as the date approaches
Other additions, like the story of how you met or wedding FAQs
If you don’t know where to start with curating your wedding website, Zola offers gorgeous, customizable, easy-to-use wedding website templates (plus tips on content and design) to spare you the trouble of trying to create one from scratch.
Everyone and anyone you are committed to inviting to your wedding should receive a save the date card—including friends and family who have a role in your ceremony or have given you verbal confirmation that they’ll be there.
Staying on top of your guest list can be a stressor all its own (notwithstanding the inevitable onslaught of RSVPs after you’ve sent your official invitations!), which is why Zola has engineered a free, easy-to-use Guest List Manager. This tool enables you to:
Net all of your guests’ addresses and emails
Track RSVPs, menu selections, and other polled questions
Seamlessly message guests about accommodations, weather, and other updates as the day approaches
Wherever you are in the process of curating your guest list, this Zola tool is there whenever you need it.
Depending on the kind of affair you’ll be holding, you should generally adhere to the following time margins for sending your save the date card:
Remember, your intention with save the date cards is primarily to give guests enough latitude to plan for whatever your celebration has in store. It may seem like a lengthy amount of time, but when you factor in all of the moving parts, this time frame maximizes the possibility that your loved ones will be able to be with you on you and your partner’s special day.
There are three pieces of information that will make your save the date card seem visually busy. It’s better to include these tidbits on your official invitation or wedding website:
The venue: It’s likely that you and your partner haven’t settled on a venue yet, and there’s no rush to figure it out for your save the date card. So long as you know your setting to print on your formal invitation, your guests can wait until then for the specifics.
Your registry: Including directives about your wedding registry on a save the date card is a big no-no. This gesture may be received as inappropriate or premature, distracting from what is, at the end of the day, a celebration of your relationship. Save the registry information for your wedding website, which will make for a much more seamless experience for your guests.
RSVP requests: There’s no need to ask for RSVPs at this stage, though you’re sure to get a flurry of congratulatory and enthusiastic texts from friends and family after the save the date card has landed.
With so many moving parts, it’s easy to feel pressured to nail down details, even this early in the game.
While there’s no need to cement anything now, putting even an hour aside to peruse venues, vendors, and registry options at this stage can help ward off wedding anxiety and burnout. Zola has done a ton of the work for you with a list of prescreened wedding venues and wedding vendors from all over the country, all given our stamp of approval so there’s no need to carry out background checks or spend hours scrolling through Yelp reviews.
All in all, keep it simple—the couple, the location, the date(s), and a succinct message telling guests they can expect a formal invitation later down the line.
Even with something as deceivingly simple as save the date cards, complications are bound to arise.
The short answer is yes—but there are a few potential drawbacks to consider before clicking “send” on your digital cards:
It may get lost in the shuffle: Not everyone is good at staying on top of their inbox. You're sure to have a few guests on the list who are prone to more eccentric styles of email maintenance, and it’s likely your save the date might get lost in the shuffle.
It may wind up in the spam folder: Sometimes, for no apparent rhyme or reason, emails sent en masse get banished to the spam folder. This means that some recipients may never see your email. If you do catch wind of the fact that a guest rescued your message from spam’s clutches, you’ll have to send out another round of follow-ups to sort out who did (and didn’t) get your save the date memo.
Your guests may forget about it: The utility of a printed save the date card, other than entreating guests to mark your event on their calendars, is that they’ll have a tangible reminder as the date approaches. Even though your digital save the date is no ordinary email, it nevertheless runs the risk, like all emails, of being forgotten more easily than a message written in print.
Your inbox may get flooded: The ease of email is a double-edged sword: While it may be easier for you to send out word of your wedding, don’t be surprised if you wake up to a deluge of emails from friends, relatives, coworkers, etc. We recommend including a URL linking recipients to your wedding website, so that they can view the page before firing off with questions, comments, and marriage advice.
Here are a few of the pros that may appeal to some couples considering a digital save the date card:
Budget-friendly: Save the dates, wedding invitations, thank you cards, and other paper goods used at your reception and ceremony can add up and eat into your budget. While an emailed save the date may be a drop in the bucket, it’s understandable that you may want to trim the budget where you can and go for a digital version of this wedding staple.
Less time-intensive: If you’re crunched for time, an electronic save the date could save you hours otherwise spent designing, printing, licking envelopes, and manually sending your cards via snail mail. The e-save the date is a fair solution for those who want to get the word out lickety-split.
Informality: Printed save the dates tend to suggest a tenor of formality, but you and your partner may want to host a more low-key, no-frills event. If that’s the case, emailed save the dates are a way of giving your guests a taste of the relaxed tone of your wedding ahead of time.
If you’re throwing a large event, electronic save the dates may be preferable for their ability to save you substantial time, energy, and money. If this is the case for you and your partner, you may consider emailing your save the date to your long lists of guests—and having a few classic paper save the dates printed for relatives and ultra-close friends who would sincerely love to receive one the old-fashioned way.
If you’re preparing to send out your save the dates, you’ve likely established which guests you’re certain you want to include in your celebrations. Nevertheless (and particularly with larger weddings) the question of the plus-one is bound to rear its head at some point in your wedding-planning journey.
Your save the date cards can be your first means of establishing—and politely communicating to your guests—where you stand on additions to your guest list. If you haven't made any hard and fast rules just yet, err on the side of caution—it’s best not to make promises to guests that you can’t keep.
If you’re still on the fence, here’s when we would caution away from including plus ones on your save the date cards:
You don’t know your venue: If you’ve chosen the location of your wedding but are still exploring concrete options for venues, don’t offer plus-one’s just yet. The last thing you want is to overburden your host venue with a headcount they can’t accommodate.
You haven’t settled on a budget: We don’t need to tell you twice—weddings are expensive. Even a few extra plus-ones can make a dent in your budget, and there’s never any shame in being conservative if you need to adhere to yours to keep expenses within your price range.
There are, however, cases where signaling that a guest may bring a plus-one is in your interest as a gracious host. Here are the types of guests we always recommend making some extra room for:
Remember: You’ll inevitably receive messages from friends and family leading up to your big day, and it’s likely many of them will be related to bringing a date. The golden rule of wedding planning is to err on the side of caution until you’re closer to the event.
You’ve got plenty of time to plan, primp, and polish your wedding plans between issuing the save the date cards and mailing out your official wedding invitations. As a rule of thumb, invitations should go out six to eight weeks before the wedding itself.
This scenario is more common than you might think. There are all sorts of reasons engaged couples need to bite the bullet and switch the date of their wedding, from unexpected family events, to wanting to take it slow, to feeling a sense of responsibility when it comes to their guests’ safety (as in the case of the coronavirus pandemic).
Fortunately, the change-the-date card has shaped up to be a charming genre of wedding stationery. In addition to wedding invitations, menu templates, and a host of other nuptials-ready paper goods, Zola offers customizable change the date cards for couples who need to let guests know about the postponement—and to get the word out when the wedding is back on.
There are plenty of ways to get crafty with your save the date cards, many of which make for cherished mementos and keepsakes your guests will love to keep long after your big day comes and goes.
Ultra creative couples have sent out coasters, matchboxes, tea bags, cookies, even thrown together animated videos to let their guests know a wedding is on the horizon. But given budgetary and temporal constraints–and the perennial possibility of wedding planning fatigue–the most popular option by far is to have a classic paper card printed and mailed to your guests.
Zola’s save the date range comes in an array of styles and themes poised to suit every couple’s aesthetic, so here are a few design elements to keep in mind before you start the process of creating your very own.
While there’s undoubtedly a suite of undecided details, you and your partner probably have a sense of whether your affair will err on the more formal or casual side of the spectrum.
The following design elements can help you convey to your guests what to expect from the tone of your wedding before they get the memo on the dress code in your official invitation:
Language: Deciding on the appropriate wording is an easy way of communicating the degree of the occasion’s formality. A succinct and pithy save the date notice usually indicates a more buttoned-down wedding style, while a message like “Please save the date for the union of…” will hint that guests may want to start prepping their tuxedos for your event.
Font: In short: the loopier the script, the more formal the occasion. We aren’t ones to judge, but use Comic Sans MS with caution–unless you’re going for a more ironic, hipstery wedding vibe.
Print: There are several ways to have your lettering printed. Letterpress tends to set a more classic, formal tone, while a foil inlay still carries an air of ceremony—with a bit more panache and luminosity.
When in doubt, there’s no harm in asking stationers for their opinion on what printing style fits your aesthetic (and your budget).
Chances are you and your betrothed have already had some engagement shots taken—now is the time to put them to work.
Choose the image that resonates most with how you want guests to feel at your event, whether that’s a shot of you and your besotted partner locking eyes or a goofy picture you took with your cat.
Whatever the tone of your photo, aim to harmonize the image with the text. Pairing a jocular save the date quip with a funny engagement photo will keep things light and playful, letting your guests know they can expect a similar vibe at the celebrations themselves.
You may know exactly what kind of wedding shindig you and your spouse-to-be want to throw. If this is the case, your save the date card may be a witty way of hinting to guests what’s to come.
If you’re having a wintertime wedding, for instance, you may want to choose a stock with a sparkling, snowy theme. Or, if you’re inviting your friends and relatives off the beaten track for a destination affair, you may want to suggest what lies ahead with an atlas or air travel theme.
Whatever plans you have in the works, your save the date card is your first chance to build a sense of excitement and anticipation for the event on the horizon.
Some couples may want to play with unconventional, fun styles of save the date cards. Here are a few alternatives to your standard paper goods that you can still find at the stationer:
If you choose to go the unorthodox route, it’s sure to be a memorable memento. Nevertheless, remember there’s no hard and fast rule that says your save the date cards need to match the ultimate aesthetic of your wedding. This is your time to experiment with wedding color palettes, styles, and tones, so get crafty and enjoy the play in the process.
There’s no need to do it all yourself. To stay inspired as you and your partner plan your wedding, Zola was built to simplify what can, at times, be a complex and onerous process.
Whether you’re just beginning the planning process and are looking for tasteful save the date cards or are looking to tie off your nuptial journey gracefully with a thank you note or commemorative album to send to guests, Zola has a wide selection of paper goods to suit every wedding style.
Our stationery is just one of our tools at your disposal to coordinate your wedding, so visit our full website to learn more.